01
Nov
12

Welcome to Los Angeles! Tara Jade tells all!

This month we welcome Tara Jade, who will be giving us a glimpse, as part of a regular series, into life as an Aussie actor.

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to find out what Tara Jade does to make it – not fake it – as an actor.

First stop? LA!

Tara Jade recently returned home to Brisbane after a stint in La La Land as an actor.

Living, training, trying to work…Tara Jade tells all!

My name is Tara Jade and I went to LA for a life-changing adventure.  In Australia I always had a problem in allowing myself to be an actor.  My mother instilled great Australian values in me – get an education, get a good job, find a husband, buy a house and have some kids.  This, however, was not the story of my parents.  They were performers themselves, so the stage is in my blood and I was born with a dream to be an actor that just wouldn’t die.  I tried to be a good girl and do what Mummy said.  I got a University degree, I had (several) ‘good’ jobs and I was about to buy a second business to “invest in my future” when I suddenly realised one very important thing… I wasn’t happy.  In fact the only time I was happy was when I was acting.  So instead of living the sensible life my parents envisioned I sold my business, bought a plane ticket and took the biggest (and best) step of my life.  I landed in LA with two suitcases, no contacts and one heck of a lot of drive and now, five months on, I have embraced my essence and started my quest to be a working actress in Hollywood. The days are long, the challenges numerous and the roads are…well, traffic-jammed, but this adventure is never dull and I would love to take you with me as I follow my dream.

Welcome to LA!

When I cleared customs and finally walked outside of LAX, the vision that awaited me was not what I was expecting.  The day was dark and overcast, the cab drivers were non-English speaking (which was strangely familiar) and everything looked like a movie… a movie set in Detroit, Chicago or Watdoyacallit? Minnesota. Wasn’t LA supposed to be glitz, glamour, palm trees and year-round sun?  June Gloom, this year beginning mid April, is a couple of weeks of Queensland winter that happens at the end of spring.  It mostly consists of overcast mornings, maximum temperatures in the low 20’s (oC) and drizzle…

Welcome to LA! 

I got to my apartment, a sublet from an American Comedienne and could have literally been anywhere.  I looked around and thought, “This is Hollywood?”  Where are Kanye West and Kim Kardashian?  The first thing I noticed when walking around Hollywood and West Hollywood were the streets.  Dirty, dirty streets that smelt of urine! Whilst the streets aren’t filled with litter or debris, everything does seem to be covered in a layer of grime.  The second thing I noticed were the homeless people.  As an Australian who grew up in Brisbane and was literally leaving the nest for the very first time, this was a relatively new concept for me.  Yes, they are everywhere, yes they smell, yes they come in all different shapes, sizes, races and genders but believe me they all share one thing in common: they are not shy about asking for money.  Walking down a single street in Hollywood you can encounter between five and ten homeless people all asking for change.  The reality is, you can’t help them all and you’ll probably have mixed feelings about this, but they are as much a part of this town as the smog…

Welcome to LA!

I had dreamt of coming to America since I was ten years old so I spent my first week being a tourist and seeing the sights.  Everything seems smaller in reality than you think it will be.  Hollywood Boulevard to Santa Monica Pier and every tacky (and awesome) spectacle in between is very different to how it appears on TV.  It took me about a month to find an apartment, buy a car and settle in, which is about double what I had envisaged and harder than I thought.

My top two pieces of advice are to rent a car when you get there, even if it’s just until you decide whether to buy one or rent one long-term; and take your time so you find the right car and the right roommates.  Craigslist and the Aussies in LA Facebook page can help you with finding a sublet and a car, but buyer beware, get a mechanic to check out the auto before you hand over any money and take your time to find the right vehicle.  A lot of people in this town are out to make a buck and I learnt the hard way…

Welcome to LA!

The next challenge to contend with is what I like to call “the Visa situation.”  Whenever you meet a group of Aussie actors in LA, the conversation will eventually arrive at visa types, immigration lawyers, deal memos and sponsors.  It is crucial to understand the rules of your Visa.  For information on the different visa types, eligibility requirements and regulations go to www.travel.state.gov and www.cbp.gov  These two sites should give you everything you need to start lodging your visa application. But let’s cut straight to the nitty gritty: the O-1 or, as I like to think of it, the Holy Grail of visa categories for actors coming to the US (aside from winning the Greencard lottery of course).  An O-1 is a visa for “aliens with extraordinary ability or achievement in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or extraordinary achievements in the motion picture and television field.”  It is the only way you are allowed to work as an artist in the United States and can last from one to three years depending on the project you are working on or ultimately the strength of your application.

In order to attain this visa type you must fulfil at least three out of six categories, be sponsored by an agent or manager and have a strong deal memo (contract) that will keep you employed for the length of visa you are applying for.  It requires a mountain of paperwork, a tonne of lawyer’s fees, a lot of networking and a hope and a prayer.  But isn’t it worth it if you’re one step closer to chasing your dream of making it big in Hollywood?  Hell Yeah!

A word of caution: if you are on an O-1, you are not legally permitted to work in any other forms of employment.  So that joke about being a waitress/actress is unfortunately not relevant for Aussies as it is illegal to work outside your field.  This includes other jobs in the arts.  If your Visa is for acting, I’m afraid you can only act, so it is important to come over with plenty of savings to see you through.  Just another hoop to jump through on your magical journey of acting in film and television…

Welcome to LA!

So you’re settled.  You found an apartment, bought a car, have the visa situation under control and are ready to take over Tinsel Town!  Better get yourself into a decent acting class, get new headshots, update your reel, work on your accent and find an agent!  Where to start?  Well the truth is, there is no right way.  Unless you are coming over here with significant Australian credits and already have a manager or agent lined up, the first place I’d recommend is the acting class.  This will give you a chance to network with other actors, get referrals for agents and start to make friends in this lonely city.  There are many, many choices in Los Angeles; some good, some bad and some just plain ugly!  The best advice is to get recommendations from colleagues and teachers at home and audit as many classes as you can.

It doesn’t matter if someone is renowned for helping you book auditions or if someone else helped win an Oscar for Halle Berry, this is one of those things where you will just have to go with your gut.  Personally, I chose the Margie Haber Studio, where they teach you to stop acting and start living the life of the character.  No, this is not method acting, but a process of taking you out of your head and turning you into a real person who has conversations instead of an actor who does scenes.  Their specialties include scene breakdown, audition technique and cold-reading.

Auditioning in LA is worlds away from auditioning in Australia.  In America, you do not have to memorize your lines for a first audition and Margie has a phrase technique that teaches you to use the page; concentrating your preparation time on character, relationships and environment.   This studio gets my vote for being an extremely practical class where you work on-camera every week, learn in easily digestible chunks, are taught by working actors and meet really nice artists – not easy in a town where actors (especially the women) are intrinsically bitchy! But the choices are endless and this may not be what you need so do your research and try before you buy.  Decisions, decisions…

Welcome to LA!

Tara Jade

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